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I'm A 'No' On This Nominee, Sen. Blumenthal Says


Today is the second day of Senate hearings on Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to become the next justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. And if it's anything like yesterday's opening day, it might not go according to script. There were orchestrated public protests in the hearing gallery.



MARTIN: As well, one by one, each Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee interrupted the proceedings to argue that they have been denied crucial documents about Kavanaugh and, as a result, the hearing should be delayed. Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut made one of the motions to delay, and he joins us now.

Thanks so much for being with us, Senator.

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: Thank you, Rachel.

MARTIN: You said yesterday the process would be, in your words, tainted and stained forever because you haven't been given all the relevant documents. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, the chair, says you already have half a million pages. So what do you not have that you need?

BLUMENTHAL: What we lack is the key documents relating to a period of this nominee's professional career in the Bush White House that he says is the most formative. In fact, it may well be the most important. And we have a lot of documents, but they're only a fraction - less than 10 percent - of all the relevant documents that we need to really advise and consent. And this concealing and hiding of documents raised the question, what are they afraid of showing the American people? We don't know what's in those documents that have been concealed. But as a prosecutor, I can tell you, I want to know what someone is concealing in order to make a judgment.

MARTIN: Although Republicans, as you know, say that would just be untenable, that Kavanaugh - the documents you're talking about are from when Kavanaugh served as staff secretary to President George W. Bush, where he was in charge of making sure that all the paperwork that came to the president was vetted properly and that it would just be simply impossible to release all that information and that it wouldn't be germane anyway because this is separate from his time in the Office of Legal Counsel. It wouldn't give any bearing to his judicial history.

BLUMENTHAL: The Republicans have this bogus notion that the staff secretary of the president is just a traffic cop, which everybody knows is totally untrue. The fact is that these documents will reflect on the key issues that matter so much. There's so much at stake here. What this nominee thinks about whether women should be able to continue to decide when they have children, whether people should continue to be able to marry the person they love, whether we will be protected from an imperial presidency, whether people will be protected from abuses in the health care system, like pre-existing conditions - all of those views may well be reflected in these documents.

And remember, Rachel, all of these documents will, in fact, come out at some point in the next few years. By law, the Presidential Records Act, they have to be released. We should have them now, and my colleagues who are concealing them will be judged harshly if we find some of the bombshells we think may be lurking in them.

MARTIN: Although, how much difference could they make? I want to play a clip for you from Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, yesterday.


TED CRUZ: There's an old saying for trial lawyers. If you have the facts, pound the facts. If you have the law, pound the law. If you have neither, pound the table. We're seeing a lot of table-pounding this morning.

MARTIN: Several of your colleagues have indicated that they've already decided they're going to vote no on Kavanaugh. You have said so explicitly. Is there really anything in these missing documents that would change your mind on him?

BLUMENTHAL: The American people need to know what this nominee's views are. That's why we're going to be asking tough, challenging questions today about whether this nominee's writings and opinions and possibly those documents...

MARTIN: Is that a no - there's nothing in those documents that would change your mind? Is there a possibility you could vote yes?

BLUMENTHAL: I'm a no on this nominee. But the important opinions here are of the American people. They're the ones who are going to sway the few key votes in the United States Senate that will make a difference. Ultimately, the court is, in fact, the court of public opinion. They're the jury. And that's why these documents should be available to them, so they can see them.

MARTIN: You're a Democrat in a highly partisan political moment where, clearly, the legacy of Merrick Garland looms large, Obama's nominee to the court who was never given a hearing. You are likely, I think it's fair to say, to take issue with any nominee tapped by a Republican president right now. What evidence do you have to suggest that Brett Kavanaugh is outside the judicial mainstream, that he is somehow an exceptional Republican nominee?

BLUMENTHAL: He's taken extreme positions on possibly overturning Roe v. Wade. That's the reason that he passed the Trump litmus test, which was a justice who will automatically - his word - overturn Roe v. Wade. He has taken positions on striking down gun violence protection laws if they, in effect, didn't exist at the time the Constitution was written. And he's taken a view on the presidency that would give the chief executive the power to refuse to enforce any law he deemed unconstitutional, refuse to comply with a subpoena before the grand jury and possibly, in effect, overturn laws that are duly passed by the Congress.

MARTIN: OK. Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat, member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Thanks for your time, sir.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

MARTIN: NPR's Scott Detrow has been covering the Kavanaugh hearings and was listening in to that conversation. I mean, we heard Senator Blumenthal there list off the several issues he's going to be looking out for today, questions he wants answered, including Kavanaugh's views on executive power. This is something that's definitely going to come up today.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Definitely. He's written in the past that he's skeptical of the idea that a sitting president should have to answer to litigation, should have to answer to subpoenas - obviously, a key issue right now. Democrats are going to focus on that, ask a lot about abortion rights, about the legality of Obamacare, as he sees it. But Democrats are going to be frustrated by two things - first of all, the fact that Kavanaugh is likely not going to go into great detail on his personal opinions on any of those issues, no matter how many times they ask...

MARTIN: Because they never do in the Senate (laughter).

DETROW: They never do. It's pretty standard at this point. Secondly, the votes - yesterday, Arizona's governor appointed Jon Kyl to replace John McCain in the Senate. That's another sure vote for Kavanaugh. Kyl was the one shepherding him around office buildings. It's just hard to see how this vote fails at this point.

MARTIN: NPR's Scott Detrow for us this morning, he'll be covering the Kavanaugh hearings - Day 2 today.

Thanks so much.

DETROW: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.